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What are synthetic diamonds

April 21, 2017/ BY Frank van Poorten

Artificial or synthetic diamonds are (almost) impossible to distinguish from real diamonds. They are just as beautiful, hard and brilliant as real diamonds. The only thing they do not have in common with real diamonds is the production process.

 

How are real diamonds made?

The creation of real diamonds is a natural process. Carbon compresses under high pressure and heated up to 150 to 200 km deep below the surface of the earth. The carbon atoms accumulate over time under pressure and create an octahedron (double pyramid shape). This was also the first shape a diamond was cut into. This process takes millions of years.

How are synthetic diamonds made?

The process to make synthetic diamonds is entirely different. They consist of the same raw material, but have a much shorter time to grow. Roughly, there are two methods to create synthetic diamonds. The first is the HPHT method, which stands for ‘High Pressure High Temperature’. The second method is the CVD method; this means “Chemical Vapor Deposition”.

man in lab suit in factory measuring pressure

The HPTH method to make artificial diamonds

The HPHT is to create diamonds and to transform poorly colored diamonds into beautifully colored or colorless diamonds. The diamonds heat up to a temperature above 1400 °C. After that, it’s time to pressurize the diamonds in three different ways. This is done by a band press, a cubic press and a so-called split-spheres method.

To make diamonds, you need to mill carbonaceous metal in such a way that only the carbon remains. The pure carbon attach to a donor diamond and the carbon creates a larger diam ond by growing around it. The donor diamond is like the seed that forms the basis for the new diamond. To improve a diamond, the diamond only needs pressure. In such cases, there’s no need for carbon. Only pressure and temperature reform the stone.

The CVD method to make synthetic diamonds

This method allows a diamond to grow by evaporating a mixture of hydrocarbon gases under pressure. This occurs on a surface where carbon remains, so that the diamond grows within a relatively short period of time. The gases usually consist of methane and hydrogen in a ratio of 1:99 and deposit on the surface at a temperature of 800 °C. This method is nowadays the simplest and cheapest to perform.

Buy a real or synthetic diamond?

It is safe to say that artificial diamonds have gained popularity over the last years. This is not that strange as these stones are sometimes cheaper than real diamonds, and can also be purer. The natural “flaws” of Mother Nature’s diamonds, are of course not in synthetic man-made diamonds. Since synthetic diamonds differ from natural ones, the diamond cutter has to engrave ‘man-made diamond’ into the stone. Also in the diamond certificate, you can find whether your diamond is natural or synthetic.

diamond rings in natural environment

It may seem nice to buy synthetic diamond jewelry. Keep in mind that one of the most important aspects of the diamond lacks in artificial: the authenticity. A diamond’s value comes partly from knowing that the little rock traveled for millions of years to eventually be worn by you. No lab grown diamond that was created in a few hours can beat that.

A diamond from Mother Nature

A real diamond is an artwork of mother nature. Because of the way the diamond industry handled its resources decades ago it got a bad reputation when it comes to the environment. The movie Blood diamonds is an example of it. But today the diamond industry is one of the most nature-conscious industry in the world. The Kimberley process and years of progress made us into a flourishing industry I am proud to be a part of.  It is sad that the synthetic industry uses the past as a selling point for their products who are made in factories that are far below our standards. 

Maybe even more relevant is that a real diamond keeps its value. It is something that you can pass on to future generations and will last forever. A synthetic diamond with regards to value- is meaningless. 

Want to learn more about the differences between real and fake diamonds? Learn how to recognize a fake diamond or book a free tour through our diamond factory to learn everything about diamonds.

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